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Review: Trista + Holt #15

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Trista & Holt #15 (Iffy Commix) is the final installment of Andrez Bergen’s epic neo-noir saga based on the legend of Tristan & Iseult. It’s a double issue that brings to a rather quiet conclusion the story of Issy Holt, son of crime boss Isidore “Anguish” Holt, and Trista Rivalen, niece of notorious rival crime boss, Marcella Cornwall. Trista and Issy fell in love at first sight early on at the funeral of Holt wheel man Lou Holden and that fateful first meeting foreshadows all that is to come, including the ending, but not in the way one might expect.

As mentioned in previous reviews, Bergen’s characters are often portrayed by images of famous actors and pop culture figures, from Paul Newman (Issy) to Amanda Seyfried (Trista), and Angela Lansbury (Marcella) to Gary Oldman (Anguish), among others. It makes for a rich and fascinating visual narrative and increases the cinematic impact of this noir comic. This time out Jenson Ackles (of the CW network’s long-running series Supernatural) begins as Issy, with various lovely ingénues as Trista. When we last left off Trista was at the Black Sails Asylum and Issy was determined to save her from the clutches of Marcella, Anguish, and Issy’s former best friend Brangien, whose envy of Trista now borders on deadly. Will he save Trista? Yes — and no. If that comes off as a frustrating paradox it might help to realize this entire series contains paradoxical elements throughout: high tragedy and wicked comedy; the blending of noir and gothic motifs with outrageous disco outfits and other design excesses of the 1970’s, gritty harsh reality and dreamy magical realism, noir narrative and medieval legend. All of these components mesh perfectly to create a comic experience like no other.

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With all that has gone before in this story: shootouts, murders, betrayals and hauntings, the finale seems extremely quiet and subdued; there is, however, a compelling reason for that given the theme of this last episode. Things had come to such a pass in Trista & Holt #14 that I had no idea how the story would end but since this series adheres tightly to true noir narrative, a happy ending was all but out of the question. Once all cards have been dealt and all hands played the ending rings true, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

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Trista, our fabulous heroine, is an incredibly tough young woman; still, since the death of her friend and mentor Governal and the sudden marriage of Issy to another woman (the last person one would possibly expect), she’s surrounded by duplicitous and treacherous individuals who’ll stop at nothing to further their own aims. Add the dimension of passionate romance to this hard-bitten yarn and you’re left with the bitterest of love stories with barely enough room to hope it might sweeten with age. If togetherness means anything and if you really believe in true love for better or for worse, you’ll find some shred of hope in the way things turn out. If you don’t, add an extra maraschino cherry to that Manhattan before you settle down to read this final chapter. It might make it go down just a little easier.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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Review: Trista + Holt #14

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Trista & Holt #14 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) is the penultimate issue in this sleek, gritty ‘70’s neo-noir, dark as a night club basement and glittery as a disco ball. As always, this issue features eye-candy artwork, muscle cars and narrative twists and turns aplenty. Things have come a long way since the first spark of romance between Trista Rivalen, tough and beautiful niece of badass mob matron Marcella Cornwall, and Issy Holt, handsome scion of the rival Holt crime family.

They met at the funeral of Lou Holden, driver for Issy’s dad, “Anguish” Holt. Since then, Trista and Issy have braved every God-awful strange, twisted event a beautiful young couple can endure and they’re still in love—however in #14 things take a particularly drastic turn for the worst.

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While indulging in another long afternoon of mindless TV viewing with his clever and perceptive cat, Andred, Issy (portrayed here by a young Marlon Brando) sees a breaking news story about the fate of his brilliant, hardtack mother, Alaina. When he goes to inform his father (portrayed here by none other than President Gerald Ford), Issy learns that Trista could be headed for a fate worse than death and it may be entirely too late to save her.

Not only might Issy be too late to save the woman he really loves, the woman to whom he’s married is volatile, dangerous and wields tremendous power over both him and Trista. Bergen is unflinching in his weaving of narrative and imagery that takes us somewhere we don’t want to be, and as this epic series winds down, we can only hope for the best.

“Hope” is the operative word here. True noir doesn’t usually end happily and this is true noir to the bone, so buckle your seatbelts, mates, this promises to be a bumpy night of the soul. The final and most serious threat facing our heroine Trista comes from somewhere I never expected and from someone I’d already thought whacked — in the sense of the gangster vernacular — so trust no one and beware everyone, including close relatives and friends with benefits.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Trista + Holt #12

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Trista & Holt #12 represents a turning point in Andrez Bergen’s neo-noir saga from Iffy Commix, with surprises aplenty and a major “romantic” twist that made me wonder, Wait, did I read that right? Did that really happen? Happen it did, and the unexpected wedding in #12 has to have major consequences for the remaining installments.

Trista & Holt #12 finds Trista investigating what exactly happened to her friend/ mentor/ father figure Governal and seemingly talking at cross purposes with Marcella Cornwall as Marcella comes up with a bizarre way to stem the violence between her camp and the Holt’s. Trista and Issy are still in love as well as lust but their relationship must remain secret for the time being or there’ll be hell to pay.

Some characters that have been in the background in recent issues such as Alaina Holt, Issy’s tough-as-nails mother, and the notorious Norwegian with the nine millimeter pistol again come to the fore leaving us to wonder exactly how much Alaina knows about Trista’s and Issy’s relationship and what she’ll do with that knowledge.

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Again, Bergen’s visuals are most intriguing and the representations of Trista and Issy are delicious eye candy. There’s a glimpse of an aged, unusually emotional Marcella represented by Angela Lansbury in earlier panels and then by what appears to be an outgoing, joyful heiress in others, which just emphasizes the emotional vertigo of these characters in seemingly impossible situations. How does Trista keep her composure through the present dizzying turn of events? Must be a combination of Governal’s training and her own nerves of steel.

 

Issy’s longtime pal, Brangien, makes an appearance in this issue, but it looks like this may be her last. One never knows however, because characters have a way of returning from the other side to offer commentary and insights on things that are happening, even after they’ve seemingly left the stage (think Lou Holden and Moore Holt from previous issues).

As we near the end of the fabulous ride that is Trista & Holt, Bergen continues to weave a tale of love and revenge, darkness and death—and there’s wicked humor, too! What more could a fan of all things noir ask for?

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Commix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Trista + Holt #11

TRISTA+HOLT_11_cover_Jan 2016_IF CommixTrista & Holt #11, the latest installment of Andrez Bergen’s epic neo-noir story based on the legend of Tristan and Iseult, blazes forward with Issy Holt helping Trista break out of the hospital. What mysteries await Trista as she arrives at Marcella Cornwall’s estate remain to be seen, but it appears some things have happened during her time in critical care that will rock her world, possibly even breaking her determined state of calm coolness and detachment.

Trista’s and Issy’s romance continues to blossom in #11, in the unlikeliest of circumstances, under the worst of conditions. Shootouts and car chases, pop culture icons and gloriously outlandish ‘70’s outfits all make up the backdrop for young love in a time of intergenerational gang wars (the vintage “Billy the Kid” car/ tableau that Trista encounters upon leaving the hospital takes the time warp-factor to a whole new level). It would seem that the glow of young love might brighten this noir universe just a shade, but past violence sparks still more violence, and endings outnumber new beginnings.

Not since the final send-off for Holt wheel man Lou Holden have we seen such a fabulous spectacle rife with fascinating figures like those attending the funeral of Issy’s notoriously cruel uncle, Moore Holt. Offed earlier by Trista in her first official hit, Moore recently joined the ranks of roaming ghosts. This funeral follows in the tradition of Lou’s: crying and wailing by family members, poker-faced glitterati from Daniel Craig to David Bowie representing eccentric mourners sure to have their own fascinating backstories. If only there were world enough and time. Use your imagination; you’ll have plenty of inspiration.

Page-015 sampleWhat’s happening concurrently as Trista and Issy arrive at Marcella’s estate, Tintagel, seems to indicate an ending as well, but in a whole different style and from a very different point of view (a cinematic high angle).  Whose point of view is it? Too soon to say, but there are (disturbing) clues as to why this could be the end of an era for Trista.

Bergen is adept at weaving a most compelling yarn and his clever and artful juxtaposition of words and delicious, provocative images makes for a visual feast. Time spent in the world of Trista & Holt is like time spent in the cool dimness of an exclusive disco club, a shadowy noir realm populated by beautiful people glimpsed in the flash of strobe lights, neon, and yes, the occasional flash of gunfire.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Iffy Comix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Trista & Holt #11

Trista & Holt #11

Story: Andrez Bergen
Art: Andrez Bergen

It’s been all funerals, no wedding, and this issue’s service is held for a key character.

Having survived a harrowing attempted hit on her own life and a mad car-chase, Trista needs to use every skill Governal passed on to intuit whom she can trust in this violent criminal fraternity — yet now there’s Issy beside her, offering support, and surprisingly offbeat young love is in the air.

The hardboiled-pulp seriously hits its stride — and nothing shall be the same.

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Review: Trista + Holt: Volume 1

THVol11CvrSince I jumped on board reading Andrez Bergen’s noir series Trista & Holt around Issue #3, I was thrilled for the opportunity to circle back to the beginning with Trista & Holt: Volume 1, which contains Issues #1-5.

From Issue #1 we get a sense of Trista’s hard-boiled personality (gorgeous Trista is; pushover, she ain’t). In the first issues, one becomes oriented to the urban jungle of mob violence Trista so deftly navigates and how she’s risen to the top of Marcella Cornwall’s crime organization as quickly as she has. Yes, she’s Marcella’s niece, but blood only runs so deep and Marcella is not the sentimental type at all. It’s here that we also meet Issy Holt for the first time, scion of a rival powerhouse crime family, as handsome as Trista is beautiful but privileged in ways that Trista could never imagine.

TH-4 sample 2If you’re a fan of hard-boiled neo-noir this is your cup of tea, or rather, shot of whiskey, and even if you’re new to that shadowy world where cruel fate rules and violence or the threat thereof lurks around every corner, consider this your education. Bergen is a fantastic story-teller and the characters that populate and images that illustrate the darkened alleys, mob-owned discos and grand mansions of Trista & Holt: Volume 1 run the gamut from classic femme fatales, fall guys, flunkies and gunsels to sublimely eccentric disco-era versions of same. Since this series is based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde, there are visual references to the ancient origins of that story as well, making this another example of the elasticity and supreme adaptability of noir.

TH-4 sample 3Each issue blends seamlessly into the next and as the violence escalates so does star-crossed romance. World-weary as both Trista and Issy are and have every right to be, there’s a spark the first time they meet at a grand funeral for a longtime member of the Holt crime organization. If Trista and Issy are ever reminded for a moment that they’re young, beautiful, and both have their whole lives ahead of them, the dark world of which each is a part is ever ready to yank them back into blood-soaked, shattered reality. Having been groomed their whole lives to do their respective families’ bidding, there’s a wildness about Trista and Issy that’s just waiting to break loose. Exactly how that will happen remains to be seen, but Issue #5 hints at what’s to come as their worlds start to collide.

TH-4 sample 5Trista & Holt Volume 1 is a great read and a cutting edge work of postmodern art. Inspired by an age-old romance, with classic noir motifs and the gritty glamour of 1970’s neo-noir, Bergen’s series incorporates imagery drawn from the worlds of cinema, literature, advertising, all aspects of pop culture, and yes, comics. The striking visuals and haunting narrative combine most effectively to create a noir experience that will stick with you for a long time.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The publisher/ creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Trista + Holt #6

Trista + Holt issue 6 COVER ARTTrista & Holt #6 (Iffy Commix), the latest in Andrez Bergen’s 1970’s noir series, opens with Trista in trouble, having been stabbed by Issy Holt’s uncle, the hard-headed, hard-charging Moore Holt. Issy has been obsessed with Trista since first seeing her at Holt wheel man Lou Holden’s funeral, and now Issy finds her at death’s door on the floor of Samson’s bar. She knows the connections they share, but Issy doesn’t, and this promises to complicate things tremendously going forward.

Bergen is a master of the tropes and motifs of high noir and Trista & Holt shows how adept is he is at capturing the spirit and tone of ‘70’s neo-noir, placing the saga of Tristan and Iseult in a much more recent time and setting it to a disco beat. Marcella Cornwall, whose crime organization works opposite the Holts, is mostly portrayed by Angela Lansbury circa Murder, She Wrote. Marcella is the one who sent Trista on the dangerous errand to kill Moore Holt in the first place and she’s grown even more demented since last we saw her. While Trista’s level-headed confidante Governal shows concern for Trista’s well-being and knew she might not have been carrying enough fire-power Page_06to dispatch Moore once and for all, Marcella believes only that the end justifies the means, taking Trista’s loyalty for granted.

Page-006The artwork Bergen chooses to show the crime scene at the bar along with the traumatic aftermath is haunting, and cinematic effects such as stark lighting and varying levels of focus make Trista & Holt a rich visual and narrative experience. It doesn’t hurt that screen idols of the era surface frequently, such as when Paul Newman portrays Issy, adding ‘70’s gloss and glamour to the urban grittiness of the proceedings. There are some significant twists and turns in this issue, and some very striking imagery sets the stage for more to follow as the plot thickens considerably and the tantalizing entanglement between Issy and Trista grows ever more complicated—and dangerous.

Art and story by Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Bullet Gal #12

BC12SmBullet Gal #12 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), the final issue in the series featuring one of the toughest chicks on the planet, is packed with fantastic images, the best of what has come to define the aesthetic of Bullet Gal and the mythical metropolis of Heropa. In #12, digitized reality has been re-set and all are scrambling to come to terms with all that implies.

The press is in an uproar over what the re-set means and here Bergen skillfully blends visuals of digital culture with vintage/noir imagery, including famous faces such as Edward G. Robinson and Kirk Douglas. Here also are beat reporters from central casting and images of classic autos from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s crowding a downtown neon-lit theatre district as all celebrate and commiserate about what just happened and why.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 1On all levels of society from Mitzi’s mentor Lee (who’s responsible for the re-set) and his bickering doppelgangers, to the heroes to the bad guys (and gals), there’s a palpable sense of apprehension and anticipation. The Crime Crusaders are disbanding to form a new group, and the villains are regrouping to form a new threat. Meanwhile people are partying like it’s New Year’s Eve—and they don’t really know why. It’s the eve of something all right, but what exactly remains a tantalizing mystery.

Meanwhile the duel-pistol-wielding Mitzi’s been headed for a reckoning with French femme fatale Brigitte since the beginning of the series, so when Mitzi observes the effects of the re-set on Brigitte, she’s totally thrown. This new world isn’t so much brave as it is scrubbed of its noir-ish, smoke-stained patina, sanitized and deodorized, with good and evil apparently re-categorized.
Ever the adaptable heroine, Mitzi begins to adjust to her new identity, stepping into a blindingly bright future as a defining persona of the new Heropa, but she’s not blinded by all the hype.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 2When Lee calls her away from the celebrations, if that’s what one could call the gatherings taking place post re-set, he takes on the shadowy form of Cary Grant ascending the stairs in Suspicion, a glowing glass of milk on a tray. This version of Lee seems authentic, but how to know? Can we only hope—for Mitzi’s sake? Don’t worry about Mitzi–even without her twin polished-nickel 9mm. pistols, Mitzi remains Bullet Gal at heart: bored cynicism, eternal optimism and resolute bravery combined into one formidable woman of the future.

Bullet Gal 12_sample 3Bullet Gal #12 is a visually stunning conclusion to the series, and the narrative closes on a satisfying note that still leaves the door open to the imagination. Even if you aren’t usually the type to remain in your seat watching the credits of a film to the bitter end (if you are, I probably wouldn’t need to tell you this), stay and read Bergen’s end-notes and final word on Bullet Gal—it’s definitely worth it!

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 9.8 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/ creator provided a FREE copy of this issue for review.

Review: Trista + Holt #5

SmCvrTH5Trista & Holt #5 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) begins with Issy Holt and his right-hand man Brangian leaving for Holt wheel-man Lou Holden‘s funeral. There Issy sees Trista for the first time and can’t get her image out of his mind. The magic generated by their very brief first encounter is seen in points of light surrounding Issy who is instantly captivated by her. Trista and Issy are represented by pictures of handsome and lovely individuals with movie-star looks a la Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, et al. Again there’s the mood of a fateful star-crossed future for these two in this intoxicatingly stylish 1970’s noir universe.

Page_04 smallerIn the last issue Trista set out to perform her first hit on the bad-ass Holt family enforcer, Moore. She was ordered to do it by the slightly unbalanced (or is slightly an understatement?) matriarch of the Cornwall family, Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall. The ever-loyal Trista carries out the hit, but Moore’s head is so hard she doesn’t know if her small pistol actually finished the job because he crashed through a window before she could find out. What she does know all too well is that she’s been stabbed—it’s bad– and what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Page_12My guess is that Issy will find her at the bar where the hit took place, or else follow a trail of blood to the beautiful woman he met briefly at the funeral and now can’t get out of his mind. Will this jar Issy out of his world-weary ennui? Something tells me yes, but what that means remains to be seen. Will he switch sides in this war between the city’s crime families or will he and Trista try to run away together, leaving their dangerous, eccentric relatives behind?

Things will very likely be more complicated than either of those scenarios. This is noir, after all, in the truest sense of the word, so likely no happy endings here—just an ending. In the meantime, like royalty, these lead characters carry out their responsibilities with sober resolve. Speaking of royalty, this issue features a picture of Queen Elizabeth II representing Issy’s powerful mother, Alaina, and none other than Prince Phillip in tow as Issy’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt.

Page_13The images Bergen uses to weave this narrative are striking, witty and seductive and the writing mirrors the visual. It’s serious noir that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the best scenarios and dialogue one might find in the office of Sam Spade late at night or riding out to Greystone Mansion with Philip Marlowe: danger laced with humor; death and deception might be around every corner, but in the meantime, hey—ya gotta live.

Page_20In any other 1970’s world Trista and Issy would be living the high life, gracing discos with their glittering presence and speeding from parking lots of stylish establishments in the finest of ‘70’s automobiles. In this world Trista dresses up to carry out a hit on a nasty brute and Issy escapes reality by watching CHiP’s on television. Trista’s latest misadventure will likely force him to face facts, to get outside his fabulous mid-century modern apartment and deal with the consequences of being who he is. In the meantime, Trista’s reality is a fight for survival, surrounded by cigarette ashes and shattered glass.

If you’re already a fan of noir, you’ll be swept away by this series and recognize the savvy neo-noir and pop-culture gems to be discovered in the imagery and narrative, and if you’re new to the genre/mood of noir but curious about its proud tradition in literature (up from its pulp-fiction roots) and film, check this out and you’ll learn something—like why guns don’t always beat knives, and ‘70’s muscle cars still rule.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE cop for review.

Review: Bullet Gal #11

BULLET GAL cover issue 11The cover of Bullet Gal #11 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), features a lovely woman in a carnival mask, an appropriate image considering how Bullet Gal’s outward identity shifts constantly as that obscure-object- of-desire/ danger/ justice (a la the lead character in a Bunuel film) adapts to situations and circumstances outside her control. This installment of Bullet Gal contains witty banter between Mitzi (Bullet Gal) and her mentor Lee, whose identity shifts often as well. The conversation is hard-boiled and existential as Mitzi and Lee discuss the reality (also ever-shifting) of Heropa, for although its look is pre-mid-century modern with vintage black terreplanes cruising the urban landscape, it’s decidedly post-modern and beyond plot-wise as Lee explains the imminent “re-setting” of the current reality and the consequences that will have on all concerned—including Mitzi. Will she be able to fly? Lee contends that she won’t. It’s a cardinal rule. But we’ll see.

Bullet Gal 11_sample art 111Though Mitzi’s look changes often, she’s ever rock-solid and true. She has her occasional moment of fear, but never lets those moments get in the way of hard-charging, gun-slinging action. No matter what version of reality she has to deal with, she’s always in the moment, fully engaged and aware, dual polished nickel pistols at the ready. She’s matter-of-fact in the best possible way and just because she’s ruled by her head and not her heart doesn’t mean she doesn’t have heart, soul, and courage aplenty, because she does. She also has a wicked sense of humor, even having being shot and “held together by painkillers.”
That’s what gives her super-hero status in this universe, flying ability or lack thereof notwithstanding. It isn’t Mitzi’s unreal qualities that elevate her to the status of super-hero, it’s the all too real action-oriented Mitzi that makes her a potential role model for women-who-get-things-done. She takes on the toughest of gangsters and meanest of their French assassin girlfriends with equal “what else ya got?” resolution. When Lee shows her a picture of Brigit, the femme fatale extraordinaire who’s out to kill her, Mitzi says: “She’s pretty.” Mitzi isn’t threatened by Brigit’s looks, weaponry, nor connections. She just acknowledges Brigit’s beauty and moves on. She may have to kill Brigit someday; but all the same, Brigit is pretty. When and if Mitzi kills her will be determined only by necessity. Mitzi does what has to be done, that’s all.

Page_21_issue 11 BUllet GalIn this penultimate episode of Bullet Gal, Mitzi prepares to step into her destiny in the new Heropa. Whatever happens, she’s ready. Mitzi travels lightly, weighed down by little else than that impressive set of pistols left to her by her late father. She’s not afraid of change and calls things by their real name. Mitzi stands at the crossroads of the present and the future, at home in the former and looking toward the latter with curiosity and a sense of adventure tinted in shades of deepest noir.

With Bullet Gal, Bergen takes us on a wild ride through a world populated with gangsters, dopplegangers, a woman who fights for justice and a woman who wouldn’t hesitate to stab justice in the throat with a switchblade. It’s gangster/ noir laced with sci-fi in an all-too-real yet digitized ethereal universe. And it’s about to all be re-set!

Savor Bullet Gal #11 and visit the present version of Heropa while you can; there’s only one more to go!

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Story: 9.8 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The creator/ publisher provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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